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Mercy to close El Reno hospital, open outpatient facility

A rendering of an outpatient facility Mercy will open in El Reno to replace the inpatient hospital it runs. The new facility is expected to open in about six months. [Illustration provided by Mercy]

A rendering of an outpatient facility Mercy will open in El Reno to replace the inpatient hospital it runs. The new facility is expected to open in about six months. [Illustration provided by Mercy]

Oklahoma City — EL RENO — Mercy will close its inpatient hospital in El Reno in the next six months and replace it with a new outpatient building.

Jim Gebhart, president of Mercy, said the health system notified employees and the city of its plans on Monday. Mercy will work with the city to try to avoid a gap in health care coverage before the new facility opens, he said.

It didn't make sense to remodel the existing hospital, which needs a new roof and quite a few modifications to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Gebhart said. Mercy hasn't decided on a new location, he said.

The outpatient facility will include primary care offices, x-rays and other imaging, lab testing, physical therapy, wound care and a home health care office. It also will offer specialties like urology, cardiology, orthopedics and pain management.

The new facility will have an urgent care clinic, but not a full emergency room. Mercy will continue to operate the ambulance service, Gebhart said. Some patients will go to the nearest emergency room, 10 miles away in Yukon, and those who need a higher level of care may go to Oklahoma City, he said. The new facility will have a helipad for emergency medical flights.

The existing hospital didn't offer services like surgery or obstetrics, so those patients already traveled, Gebhart said. Most El Reno patients were hospitalized for complications of common illnesses, like the flu, he said.

“It's geared around what we think are the needs of the community — not just El Reno, but the surrounding communities,” he said.

About half of the hospital's 100 employees will be offered jobs at the new El Reno facility, Gebhart said, and he expects most of the others will find jobs in Mercy's Yukon or Oklahoma City locations.

Building's future

Matt White, mayor of El Reno, said he wasn't surprised the hospital would close, given how few people had used it in recent years. The most important thing is to ensure that patients continue to have access to emergency services, he said.

“That's just the reality of it. We may not like it,” he said.

The city owns the hospital building, so El Reno City Council will need to determine what the city will do with it, White said. A number of agencies, including the federal Indian Health Service, have approached the city in recent years about using the building, he said.

About 12 patients each month have an inpatient hospital stay in El Reno, while about 50 each month go from El Reno to Oklahoma City for inpatient care. Mercy estimated the El Reno hospital lost about $2.9 million last budget year, and $700,000 in the first quarter of this budget year.

Gebhart attributed the decreased demand for hospital beds in El Reno both to people choosing to drive to Yukon or Oklahoma City, and to trends across the country. Nationwide, the number of hospital stays per 100,000 people declined by about 12 percent from 2006 to 2015, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

“There's a lot more care being done in the outpatient setting,” Gebhart said. “A lot of health care systems are trying to keep people out of the hospital, and we're being successful.”

Andy Fosmire, vice president of rural health at the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said its members have been talking for some time about whether rural communities could benefit from developing “outpatient hospitals” — basically an emergency room, primary care doctors and whatever outpatient services an area can support. But that won't happen until federal and state rules change, because there's no license or payment model for that type of facility, he said.

“Rather than have a hospital close and lose all care, it would transition to a less-expensive model,” he said. “We at the association believe it's a viable model. It's not a panacea.”

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›